I’ve been dreading today for a week. I’d have to get up, go to the Alzheimer’s Walk and deal with the reality of this disease all over again. It’s not just my dad’s story, of course, it’s shared by millions of dads and moms and grandmas and grandpas and sisters and brothers and aunts and uncles. The thought of seeing my sadness reflected in the faces of hundreds of other people walking today was not enticing. To think of the massive amounts of suffering that Alzheimer’s disease creates for patients and caregivers actually makes me want to hide under the covers.
I looked for a way out.
Maybe it will rain! Nope, unfortunately, I woke up to perfect fall weather.
Maybe I’ll be sick! Nope, sadly, I found myself quite healthy.
Maybe my car will have a flat tire! Nope, maddeningly, all tires are new and fine. I even had a full tank of gas.
Then I remembered something my father used to say when I was scared: The only way out is through, Gal. Through his illness, I also learned that the dark cave of AD is only bearable with the sunlight of solidarity and support. My sweet friend Tracy had signed up for the walk, too, in memory of her father as well as mine. She’d be waiting for me. I’d make it easier for her, and she would do the same for me.
David and I arrived at the Shelburne Museum–a place where I once took my father, and where an Alzheimer’s quilt exhibit inspired me to write about him–and we shuffled to the registration. I secretly hoped that I’ d break my ankle in the parking lot. No such luck. Even more upsetting was that my mood seemed to be improving in spite of me.
Smiling people. A sea of purple. A silver medal for raising funds. A wind-powered flower garden honoring those now suffering as well as those at peace. I wrote, “Love You Ole Dad,” on one with a big grin on my face.
Tracy, David and I walked and talked. And guess what? It rocked! David made the whole 2 miles without excessive whining. He only dropped his water bottle and t-shirt ten times. I was enjoying myself, the surroundings, my pal and my son so very much that I didn’t want the walk to end. Everyone around us seemed to be feeling the same way.
At the end of the walk, three Alzheimer’s patients were ringing cowbells and waving and screaming, “THANK YOU” to all finishers.
They REMINDED ME that I had some gratitude to offer as well.
Thankfully, I got out of bed and got my butt to the Museum.
Thank you, Tracy, for being there with me. I wish I had met your dad.
Thanks to everyone who sponsored me. Team Beau contributed $685 to the cause.
Thanks to the Vermont Alzheimer’s Association for putting on an unimaginably optimistic event and for raising nearly $100,000 today.
And thanks, Beau, for teaching me how to be brave. Your fearlessness—not my sadness—was reflected in the hundreds of faces gathered at the Shelburne Museum this morning.
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I love you.